If you’re looking for help in paying debts, here are tips for finding a credit counseling agency. These are companies that can teach you how to better manage your money.
In the long run, these short-term measures should help you achieve lasting debt freedom. These may come in the form of a debt management plan, if necessary.
Table of Contents
How Credit Counseling Works
To get started, you must inquire at a credit counseling institution regarding their services. They will then ask you to schedule a counseling session and bring the required documents. These are usually financial records that will be used to assess your financial situation. Attend the meeting along with the requirements, and meet your assigned credit counselor.
Your credit counselor will scrutinize your records, and he will discuss them with you. Make sure to cover all your financial troubles, so he may assist you better. He may teach you about better money habits such as limiting your expenses and removing unnecessary ones.
He could also recommend the agency’s seminars and lessons, so you can learn money management further.
What is a Debt Management Plan (DMP)?
Your credit counselor may deem that you need a debt management program if your financial situation needs it. Perhaps you aren’t able to meet monthly payments due to your current circumstances.
A debt management plan is a modified version of your debt payment plans. It’s intended to facilitate your debt payoff, so it could have lower monthly payments and other more favorable terms.
However, a debt management plan must be approved by your creditors. If they reject your credit counseling agency’s proposal, you won’t be able to start the DMP. This is one of the few disadvantages of credit counseling, but remember that it still has potential benefits.
This is why you should know more about these characteristics, and choose the best company for the job.
If you’re allowed to start your DMP, you must comply with its rules and limitations. More importantly, you must send your payments to the agency instead of your creditors. Submit the required amount every month for a specified duration. The payment period might be longer than your previous one because of the lower monthly payments.
Advantages of Credit Counseling
One of the advantages of this debt strategy is that it goes beyond debt relief. Other debt reduction methods don’t deal with the core problem underlying debt burdens. Credit counseling teaches how to effectively handle money, so you pay debts within a specific duration.
However, those behaviors help people avoid having debt problems in the future.
Short-term, credit counseling agencies provide peace of mind for their clients. Your enrolment in these services will be noted on your credit report, so debt collectors will cease to pester you. Another long-term benefit it provides is its potential to boost your credit rating.
As you handle your finances better, your credit score may eventually improve.
The Downsides of Credit Counseling
As with all debt strategies, this one also has its share of downsides. Its glaring flaw is its dependence on your lenders’ approval. If they do not agree with your credit counseling agency’s plan, this method may not work well for you.
In fact, it’s effectiveness may vary according to various aspects of your financial situation.
This method also damages your credit for at least two to six years. It may improve afterward as long as you maintain healthy financial habits. Also, you may not like some of the restrictions stipulated in your debt management plan.
For instance, you may be required to only use one credit card for emergencies, so you’re more likely to complete the DMP.
How to Find a Consumer Credit Counseling Agency
In order to find the best credit counseling organizations, you should check with your state government. The Federal Trade Commission recommends asking your state attorney general and your local consumer protection agency.
They can provide a list of reputable credit counseling agencies that can provide legitimate assistance.
Some credit counseling agencies may charge fees that you can’t afford. Thankfully, there are nonprofit organizations that may help you for free. You may inquire at the National Foundation For Credit Counseling and other companies for counseling services.
Again, check your local government for credit counselors and their contact info such as their phone numbers.
What Things to Expect in a Credit Counseling Session
You should anticipate certain things during a credit counseling session. Your credit counselor will ask details regarding your financial situation. Don’t hesitate to provide all the necessary information, and ask about everything you need.
This will help you and your counselor come up with the best ways to solve your money problems.
Remember that a credit counseling agency will not ask for your personal information before explaining their services. These are fraudulent companies that may pose as such agencies to scam people.
Work with licensed companies and verify with your local consumer protection agency.
8 Indicators of Fraudulent Agencies
There are certain characteristics that indicate a fraudulent agency. Look out for these indicators in order to spot scam organizations.
- They ask you not to contact credit bureaus.
- Agencies charge you for their counseling sessions before offering their services. Your first consultation must be free of charge.
- They tell you to dispute your credit report, despite its legitimacy.
- They ask for your Employer Identification Number (EIN) instead of your Social Security Number (SSN) for credit applications
- Fraudulent agencies recommend that you create a new credit identity. This is an illegal action that may be considered as fraud and be subject to prosecution.
- They charge exorbitant fees of up to 30% or more, adding further to your debt.
- Agencies neglect to inform you about your legal protections.
- They don’t explain what you may do yourself with no service fee required.
Alternatives to Credit Counseling Agency Services
You may also check other debt solutions if this one doesn’t work for you. For example, you may try debt consolidation to pay credit card debts. It will replace your multiple debts and their interest rates with just one at a lower rate.
You may also ask debt settlement companies to help you reduce the amount you owe for student loans and other debts.